Upholding the Spirit
Baul guru fakir Lalon Shah (1774-1890) has made Baul songs a household name. Nowadays not only the urban audience in Bangladesh, foreigners are also interested in songs composed by Lalon because of the mysterious way he raises some of the compelling universal questions on life and soul. His verses, which the Lalon followers call Kalams, are the doctrines of the devotional rites of Ohedaniat, the belief that glorifies humanism. In fact, it is the devotional songs of a mendicant folk sect, which generally inhabits South-western Bangladesh.
The cult abides by a restricted lifestyle, following the advice of preceptors and the indoctrination of sahajasadhana (worship to be simple). Perhaps that is why Lalon, in his verses suggests to search for a maner manush (beloved) who will guide one to become a Shahoj Manush (simple human).
Like the other schools of Baul tradition, followers of Lalon believe that it is not possible to attain peace through physical love alone; divine love is also needed. Followers can have sexual intercourse but are not allowed to give birth to a child, as it is believed that by giving birth one takes on the burden of 'rebirth' on one's shoulder, which is something the Lalon followers prefers to avoid. Taking 'birth' in this materialistic world is considered painful. That is why the Lalon followers take Khelafat, the highest state of knowledge, thinking that at this stage one is prepared to absorb shain (Lord) in her soul.
L-R: Poster of Andho Nirangom, Lalon devotees perform rites in the
movie, Rokeya Prachy and Jayanta Chattopadhyay in a scene from
After gaining Khelafat, men wear white lungis and long white tunics while women wear white saris and are forbidden to bear children, which, however, one is allowed do before attaining Khelafat. In his verses, Lalon has also urged his followers to have a better understanding of 'death' to taste divine love. That's why after gaining Khelafat one is supposed to give up all earthly possessions, wearing only white, the colour Kafon, burial cloth.
But, many Lalon followers have derailed from the real teachings of shahajasadhana, becoming interested in earthly matters. Moreover, capitalising on the interest of the foreigners and urban dwellers in Lalon songs and the uniqueness of the cult, many pseudo Lalon followers have indulged themselves in unsocial activities. The true devotees, however, cannot allow their cult affected by such notorious activities. As a result a conflict has ensued between the true devotees and the fake followers.
Andho Nirangam (The Veil of Dust), directed by Hashibur Reza Kallol, has portrayed this ongoing conflict between the authentic and pseudo followers of the baul guru. The director, who is also the screenwriter of the cinema, says that for many years he has been travelling in the Southwest region of the country to learn the lifestyle of the true Lalon followers. "I've tried to present the essence of the followers of Lalon and their Spartan lifestyle in the feature film," Kallol continues, "The film is based on the true story of a Lalon devotee, whom I came across while visiting the remote areas in Kushtia."
"In the film I've illustrated the real story of a Matajee (woman devotee), a true disciple of Lalon. After attaining Khelafat, one of her couple disciples give birth to a child, which the cult does not permit. The incident makes the Matajee so angry that she boots them out of her akhra. The oppression on the cult by the feudal lords has also been portrayed," he says.
Rokeya Prachy, Jayanta Chattopadhyay, Fakhruzzaman Choudhury, Reetu A Sattar, Shanjib Ahmed, Aminur Rahman Bacchu and Shihab Parvez perform the central characters of Andho Nirangam. Moreover, many Lalon devotees living at the akhras in the remote areas have rendered songs in the feature film.
Legacy of a woman devotee has been featured in Andho Nirangom.
"All of the casts and crews of the film have worked together for two long years. The shooting has been done in the remote areas to give a realistic touch to the movie," says Kallol. Andho Nirangam, an Ekushey television production, will be aired on the anniversary day of the TV channel on Pahela Baishakh (April 14). The movie will also be premiered on April 10 at Star Cineplex.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009